Written by: AJ Appeal
In conjunction with our usual work, I wanted to take an in-depth look at NASCAR's All-Star Race for my first #StatChat post. Adam's work follows trends, primarily, this 3-part series will review a total of 3 categories. For Part #1, a series of leaderboards will be presented in the form of bar graphs. The All-Star event has been around for 36 years, so there is plenty of data around for us to share. Sure, we know Jimmie has won the thing a million times, but do you know who's led the most laps? What about car number history? These topics as well as other less common statistics will be included in our my first post. I hope you enjoy; and we hope you will look forward to Parts 2 and 3 as well. In Part 2 I'll break down the history of format changes, including the famed 'open' wildcard events. In our final piece I'll work to predict the future...ok, maybe not. However, I'll use trends already provided to us in previous StatChat content from Adam to make our best suggestion for the newly formatted event at Texas Motor Speedway. While the greatest the sport has to offer have competed in the event since it's inception, the All-Star has missed the occasional superstar from year to year. Mark Martin has a distinct lead, competing in the event every year from 1989 through 2013. His 24 starts currently give him a four race lead over the next active driver Kevin Harvick who has 20. STARTS
Winning and Percentage Longevity isn't always the most important part of a racing career. Few have enjoyed a lengthy career without a fair portion of on-track success such as wins. As I joked earlier, Superman Jimmie Johnson has the most wins overall in this super hero calibered event. While Jimmie has won the most overall, with 4 total victories, Davey Allison has the highest winning percentage. Allison won 2 of his 7 total starts for a winning percentage of 28.5. No other driver has a total of 2 wins in the all-star with less than 16 starts. Career Earnings Another category led by Johnson is total earnings. In 2016, NASCAR stopped posting the total awarded cash earnings of their competitors. From 1985-2015 this information was commonly shared to the media and fans. Johnson both dominated the era at the same time the money was growing for the sport. Below are the combined total cash earnings during that era. The top 20 drivers are included. You can see that few drivers have come close to even HALF of the mark, with only a total of 9 competitors over the $2 million mark. When you average earnings over the same time period, Jimmie reigns supreme as well with many of the same drivers near the top from the early Sprint/Nextel era. One driver who found the top 5 on averages was Scott Riggs, who's lone attempt in the event earned him $145,000. Pole Awards and Trivia NASCAR has changed the formats for qualifying over the years. Often times, the field would be set by a qualifying competition that included the pit crew of the team. 19 different drivers have won the pole position, and the category was dominated by Bill Elliott. His first pole was during his Ford Thunderbird days in 1987, but it would be another ten years until he won his second pole. He also won in 2000 and 2003, making him the only driver to have won an All-Star pole in 3 separate decades. No other driver besides Elliott has 5 poles. 3 drivers have 3, and several have 2. What I found most interesting about this was that Elliott did not return to the All-Star race again until 2008 despite remaining an active and part time driver.
Another surprising fact was that some of NASCAR's greatest drivers of all-time performed so poorly under the various qualifying formats. 7-time champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. recorded only one pole award, Hall-of-Famer Jeff Gordon won one as well, as did perhaps the greatest All-Star driver ever Jimmie Johnson.
There have been 3212 total laps of racing competition in the All-Star Race. Kyle Busch has led the most and 8.4% of all laps led in the event. Bill Elliott is a close second with 8.3% of all laps led. There have been a total of 52 lap leaders in the All-Star, but the ten drivers provided in the attached photos have led more than 3%. The orange section included below is the remainder of laps led by other competitors.